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03/03/2023 09:36 AM

Dugan Digs Deep as Fantastic Freshman for Valley Gymnastics

Freshman Kaleigh Dugan has jumped right into the competitive nature of the Valley Regional gymnastics team, taking on all four events throughout the season for the Warriors. Photo courtesy of Carol Dugan

Kaleigh Dugan notes that she loves floating high in the air when it comes to her attraction to gymnastics, and the longing for flight has her on the fast track to soar to grand heights by the time her high school gymnastics career concludes.

The Valley Regional High School freshman states that she had an interest in moving around using various objects in her formative and childhood years, and so gymnastics logically came to her, and she decided to join the Warriors’ squad this past winter. In her first season with Valley, Kaleigh has made solid impacts by competing in all four events as a rookie, including notching an 8 on the vault.

“I started climbing everything when I was little, so gymnastics came naturally to me,” says Kaleigh. “I always liked the feeling of flying through the air. I really like all of my coaches because they are so supportive of me. A big part of my success has come from my teammates. They have been with me the entire way. My coaches also back me up and support me with anything I do.”

Kaleigh proclaims that when she adds a new weapon to her repertoire, it is certainly an added rush of adrenaline. She does go on to detail that some emotional hurdles can enter the competition, but when it comes to overcoming those psychological elements and performance anxieties, she has the perfect support system to bolster her through.

“My favorite part of gymnastics is when I get new skills because it gives me a lot of excitement,” Kaleigh says. “Some of the tougher parts of the sport can be mental blocks and getting over them because they can be scary. I just tell myself that I have done it all before, and then I get spotted on those events and skills I get scared of, which gives me more comfort.”

Because of her love of being in the air, Kaleigh gravitates towards the bars as her top event of excitement. Conversely, when it comes to one of the top challenges for her, Kaleigh concludes that you must have iron nerves and a steady hand when balancing upon the beam.

“I like going onto the bars because I like the feeling of controlling yourself mid-air while flying,” Kaleigh says. “The beam can be tough for me because it is hard to balance yourself when you are nervous and shaking. I have improved with that, though, because I found ways to calm myself down and look confident while competing in the event.”

When it came to creating camaraderie and cohesion amongst her new teammates this winter, Kaleigh recollects that she and the Warriors hit the ground running from Day 1. They were always there for her to share in some of her proudest solo showings throughout the campaign.

“I was nervous the first day, but after that, everyone was so nice, and I bonded with my teammates from there,” says Kaleigh. “Getting my first 8 on the vault was huge for me because the high school team judges off of level 9. The team was excited for me, and it was my first meet in the vault. They were so happy for me, as was I.”

In garnering life lessons and essentials that will help her bear greater achievements and peaks down the road at Valley, Kaleigh explains that no matter the event, the meet, the opponent, or fear, it is always a battle of mind over matter.

“Gymnastics here at Valley taught me that you can push through anything,” Kaleigh says. “If you are ever scared of doing something, you can get over that fear. If you know you can do it, you should not be scared of doing it. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Valley gymnastics Head Coach Monica Bauer notes that Kaleigh has carved out an immediate impact by bolstering the Warriors’ postseason prospects, in addition to being a compassionate teammate who is on the fast track to greater thresholds of success.

“Kaleigh is a dedicated and hard-working gymnast,” says Bauer. “She is a freshman competing in the all-around and is doing quite well. Her score counts on all of the events towards our team score, which helped us qualify for states. Her best and high-scoring event is certainly the vault. She is quiet and gets the job done. She tries hard to accomplish her goals and is always working hard in the gym. She is kind and supportive of her teammates. We look forward to seeing what she can accomplish over her high school gymnastics career.”

The debut season has made a solid and sound first impression for Kaleigh, who states that she wants to continue and finish her gymnastics career with the Warriors–helping them go further as a group both competitively and from a teamwork standpoint.

“I want to keep competing throughout high school here,” says Kaleigh. “It would be good if, in the next few years, we can make more postseason events as a team and bond even more to get closer as a team.”